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Infographic: From Plants To Perfumes: How Perfume Is Manufactured

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Perfume comes from the Latin word per fumus, which translates to mean “through smoke.” In ancient times, perfume was mainly incense-based, thus is perfumed the air through smoke from burning incense. For thousands of years, perfume has been used to mask odors, to provide fragrance for sacred ceremonies, to show status and wealth, and to make our bodies, clothes, and products smell nice.

Before the invention of synthetic ingredients and mass-production methods, perfume was made by extracting natural oils from flowers, herbs, wood, and other natural elements - including animals. Ancient Egyptians are recorded to be the first society to regularly use perfume on the body. The most elite people would wear the fragrance of lilies and other flowers. When the Romans and Greeks got in on this high-class trend, they took it upon themselves to turn perfume into an art, much like we know it today. While scents were originally used throughout the world for religious events and ceremonies, it wasn’t too long until they were mass produced.

Today, there is a common four-step process followed by most perfumers when creating new scents and fragrances.

What’s In A Scent?

Almost every high-quality perfume or cologne contains both natural and synthetic ingredients. Natural ingredients like flowers, spices, herbs, fruits, wood, and leaves are used to create the top and middle notes of fragrances. Animal excretions, such as ambergris, castoreum, and musk were once extracted directly from animals and used in perfumes to make the top and middle notes stick around longer. However, due to the over-poaching of animals for these elements, most countries have passed laws banning or strictly regulating the trade of animal excretions in perfumes. Most perfumes use lab-created synthetic ingredients to recreate the scent, aroma, and purpose of animal excretions. The bottled perfumes you see on shelves also contain alcohol and water to dilute the fragrance.

Step One: Collecting The Natural And Synthetic Ingredients

Before a perfume or cologne can be manufactured, the raw ingredients must be collected. Flowers are picked, animal products - if used - are collected, and synthetic ingredients are produced in a laboratory.

Step Two: Extracting The Natural Oils

The essential oils used to create a fragrance are extracted in a number of different ways. To name just a few extraction methods, oils can be obtained using steam, the ingredients can be boiled, or flowers and fruit rinds can be manually pressed.

Step Three: Blending The Correct Quantities

By this point, a perfume master has created the perfect blend of all the ingredients. Some perfumes are so complex that they include hundreds of different ingredients that all work together to create a specific fragrance. The extracted oils are added to alcohol to dilute the perfume.

Step Four: Aging The Finished Product For The Best Results

Most perfumes are aged after they have been diluted and bottled. Some perfumes are aged for a few weeks, and others can be aged for years. The aging process helps some of the ingredients to break down in a specific way, creating the perfect scent every time.

Experience The Art Of Perfume For Yourself

The more perfumes and colognes you experience in your life, the better you will be able to know what you like and dislike. Sign up for Scentfly’s monthly perfume subscription service to try a new scent every month from the brands you love.